Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Growing our own

We are finally nearing the end with the renovations on the house and have even started making plans for our garden.  Although not in a poor condition when we moved in, it has been left mainly as was, untouched or tended save for the occasional mowing of the "lawn" and trimming of bushes. 



We are lucky to have a lovely old apple tree and a lot of the bushes and shrubs look like they may well have been in residence since the original owners took occupancy of the house.  We are only the third family to have lived here.  There is evidence in the garden that there might have once been a greenhouse and a path to a back gate.  Neither now exist.



My dream is to clear out the bushes above to make room for us to have a shed next to the garage and then a greenhouse for growing vegetables and over wintering plants etc.  Of course this is just a dream at the moment.  Not much chance of us affording a shed or a greenhouse but until we can, we have made a start in a little corner of the garden ....



We will be planting tomatoes, peppers and hopefully potatoes soon.  Watch this space x

This is a sponsored post but it is about something we are actually doing with our home.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Always been stylish me !

I am feeling particularly frumpy and out of sorts with my fashion these days. There never seems enough time to "think" about the clothes I wear. It wasn't always this way, so when I saw the April Tots100 blog hop I though it might be fun to show you just what a style icon I was back in the day !  ( remember these photographs were taken 30 years ago - gulp).




I was no Private Benjamin. 1979 aged 17 years in basic training for the army. They made us wear our P.E. Skirts for the two weeks until our uniform was tailored. Look how shiny my shoes are. All my own work, spent hours and hours of spit and polish bulling them.



1981 The coolest girl on the base ! Horrible itchy acrylic woolly jumper tucked into my high waisted jeans, coolest of cool leg warmers pushed down (of course) and pixie boots (the first time around) leaning ever so casually against the bonnet of my boyfriends yellow golf of was it a polo ? can't remember. The hairstyle of the day Joanne Catherall of the Human League of course !



1982 wearing the biggest style statement of the year courtesy of Kevin Rowland from Dexy's Midnight runners. Dungaree's! I had 4 pairs in different colours and also colour co-ordinated the tops ! Look at the telephone on the wall in my mum's house. ha!



1982 Then it all went horribly wrong ! Somebody told me having a perm would be good for my fine flyaway hair. I duly went to a German hairdresser on the base in Rhinedahlen and came out looking like a poodle! I was totally distraught, I ran all the way back to my room crying and spent two days trying to wash the perm out. Of course it only made it worse. When my boyfriend first saw me he turned and ran off! I ended up marrying him, should of known the marriage would be doomed from the start!

So there you go That's my Tots100 blog hop post.

Friday, 22 April 2011

WorldFoods Fusion of Flavours

I still think they sent me the email by mistake and will at any minute realise and withdraw the invitation.  Those who know me will know that cooking is not my *cough* strong point or rather something  I can, but prefer not to do.  I blame years of being waited on in the Army Mess.  

Anyway until I'm thrown out of this exclusive and rather imposing club I will continue to masquarade as someone who cooks and reveal my kitchen as requested.


Can you spot whats missing ?



There it is !  The essential cooker and hob.  Apologies for the microwave, we really don't use it that often .  If you look closely you might spot the Marie Claire cookery books ontop of it, never use them, just bought them because they have pretty cover pictures that match the colour of my kitchen.   The sign on the wall ?  Says it all really : Coffee, Tea or ME !



I love vintage and thrifted household items.  Here are a selection that I have out on display.   You can follow the progress of the renovation of our home on my The White Approach   blog.


So there you go.  My kitchen. Take a minute to pop over and like the WORLDFOODS fusion of flavours facebook page and you will also be able to follow us as we cook (or attempt to) our way to Asian cooking heaven !

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Celebrate the wedding in Red, White & Blue

I know we all say it about our own children, but really, how GORGEOUS does my eldest son look wearing one of the Ralph Lauren Tees just in ! 


Available in Patriotic Red, White and Blue, they will be on the website in time to celebrate the Royal Wedding.






Monday, 18 April 2011

Meccano Space Chaos & Turbo



We were recently thrilled to receive some Meccano Space Chaos and Turbo Models for the twins from Meccano.  The boys loved the sets, although they needed a little help from daddy to put them together.  They combine the traditional view of Meccano (metal pieces with holes in them ) with some plastic components and futuristic design.


The space Chaos ships come in two ranges Silver Force set (on the left above and the good guys) and the Dark Pirates (on the right and the bad guys).  Both ranges transform into two ships.   Also included is a trading card  .  As is often the case in our house  Jarvis chose to be a bad guy and Milo the goody, I can confirm the good versus bad battle was rigorously fought, with lots of bashing and crashing, sound effect and flying around the house !  The ships survived to fight another day !

 Children  can go online on the professional and easy to use website to read about the quest, download card games, secret codes and videos.


The third set was from the Turbo range a selection of racing cars.  One clever feature is part of the storage case is used to form part of the car.    Suitable for 7 yrs and over they boys had no trouble putting this one together.  Its sturdy and well made and again combines the traditional look of Meccano with uptodate features.

If you are looking for an alternative to expensive chocolate Eggs this Easter, these toys priced at around £12 represent good value for money. 

This is not a sponsored post, we received no money for our review.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Is now the right time ?

I have to admit to thriving on a challenge.   

I am always looking for more ways to make a living.  Sales of my childrens clothes in my Ebay Shop and website have taken a bit of a nose dive in the last year.  In some way due to the recession I am sure, but also if I am honest, because I haven't given that aspect of my business the attention I should have. 



I get distracted by new ideas and bored by old ones.  I have a typical Gemini Mind.

Last year I launched my own small range of Milly by the Sea clothes for little girls, it was well received and I had lots of ideas but not the money required to produce all the items I would have liked or to follow up the range. 

The clothes are hand crafted in England and it was important for me to be able to sell them at an affordable price.  A tough call.  Anyone who is involved in the manufacture of goods in the UK will know that its impossible to compete with the mass produced rates overseas manufacturers offer.  So inevitably there was little profit for me and I decided to put Milly to bed for the time being until hopefully I was in a position to develop and market the range properly.



I would dearly love to wake Milly up now, but as I also have another idea on the back boiler at the moment coming as a result of my new and second blog The White Approach (yes, another one) is it the right time ?  Should I just concentrate on one business ?

Or is this how I should be thinking in these tough times ? Running several different concerns to appeal to as many people as possible ? 

Is this Entrepreneurial Spirt ? - 

 Entrepreneur – noun

1. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

or

Being a Jack of all trades and master of non ? 



Monday, 11 April 2011

Pimping has never been my strong point ......

MAD Blog Awards 2011


I was thrilled to discover I have been nominated in three categories for my two blogs for the MAD's 2011 awards.  (and I didn't nominate myself) x

I am not the kind of person who is comfortable with asking for votes in competitions or awards, much preferring an unrelated judging panel to make the decision for me.  Realising that you have to be in it to win it or rather you have to ask sometimes, I have decided to step outside my comfort zone and ask for votes.

So if you think that my blogs are worthy of the categories I have been nominated in would you please pop over and vote for me ?

I have been nominated for Best Small Business for this blog you can vote HERE by entering this URL http://allabouttheboysdesignerclothes.blogspot.com/ in the best small business category. 


Also nominated for Most Innovative Mad Blog for my The White Approach blog You can vote HERE by entering this URL http://thewhiteapproach.blogspot.com/  in the Most Innovative Mad blog


and if you so feel you can also vote for me HERE for my The White Approach blog for Best MAD blog Photography ! by entering this URL http://thewhiteapproach.blogspot.com/  for best Photography.

Phew!

If you do decide to vote for me, thank you very, very much .

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Vosene day out at London Zoo

MANY APOLOGIES FOR THE DELAY IN ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF THIS GIVEAWAY.

THE Winner picked at random was KATE - (What katie did next)

MANY CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU TO EVERYBODY WHO TOOK PART.  MORE GIVEAWAYS COMING SOON XX


FOLLOW UP TO VOSENE LONDON ZOO POST


We were delighted to receive a box of scrummy hair products from Vosene in the post last week.  It included :

The activating Tonic
The activating shampoo
The extra shine detangling shampoo
The original medicated shampoo
and The Two in One Gentle Action

The twins wasted no time trying out the two in one gentle action and as you can see from the pic NO TEARS!  I have to mention that it is also the softest shampoo I have ever felt.  Its an amazing texture, it almost feels like you are touching silk!  Difficult to explain, try it yourself you will see what  I mean.  I am definitely hooked on it and will certainly be buying it !



As we have no long haired people in our family, we are giving away the extra shine detangling shampoo, which I am reliably informed works wonders on curls and long hair for both boys and girls.  There was some discussion at the event that the packaging may need improving (i.e the princess theme) but apart from that it got a massive thumbs up for effectiveness.

TO ENTER GIVEAWAY

Just scroll to the bottom of the page and leave a comment telling me who in your family would love the

Giveaway closes at 8pm on Thursday 28th April

winner picked at random

item posted at my own expense so sorry only open to UK residents xx

*********************************


When I set up my blog last year I thought I would just use it to showcase my business website.  I was not expecting to be bitten by the blogging bug! and certainly not prepared for all the wonderful opportunities to attend days out and events that would come our way as a family.

Last Saturday we were thrilled to be invited by Vosene to an all expenses paid trip to London, including an overnight stay in a hotel so that we could really make the most of the Mother's Day weekend. 



We arrived early in London, which gave us plenty of time to get to the venue at London Zoo.  We decided to hop on the underground to Regents Park and have a walk through the park to the zoo.  We walked, whilst all around us people ran! We were in the middle of a charity run!

When we arrived at the zoo were waved through by the gate guard ticking us off a list like we were celebrities!  I could get used to this.    Meeting up with Jen and her Mad Family from MumintheMadHouse and the other bloggers some we knew and some we didn't it was a really nice mix of families.



Vosene went to a lot of trouble to set the venue up in the Mappin Pavillion.  There were tables set out with facepainting, card making, cake decorating, a magician, dressing up, space hoppers, hand painting,even nannies to take care of the children.  A lot of thought had gone into entertaining everyone.  By far the biggest hit with the twins was the magician, squeals of laughter and amazment as he performed close up magic to everyone. 







Space Hopper (or rather Vosene droplet racing (I may or may not have had a go, there is evidence somewhere, but I seem to have mislaid it at the moment ) !




Nannies to watch over and entertain the children, this was the Handpainting onto canvas. A lovely thoughtful touch which gave us a great reminder of the day to take home and keep.







Erm ! Facepainting and dressing up.  Jarvis got right into the spirit of things, Milo was a bit more reserved (just like his mother) xx



Lots of lovely scrummy food and cake ! Lots of gorgeous Cupcakes!  I may have eaten one or maybe two, could have been three......



The back of my head and the back of Jacob's head !    The big Vosene Boss chatted about the range including : new vosene activating range  my husband and Jen's husband were particularly interested in the activating tonic  can't think why !  Bless. 

I love the packaging of the Vosene Kids Range  its certainly come a long way since I was a child and mum used to scrub my head with it *cough* 40 odd years ago!  It has a natural head lice repellent and items in the range like Mega Hold Styling Gel and Extra Shine Spray. Products to suit even the most demanding little darling. 

We were privvy to some information on the the new products currently in development and one in particular really made my ears prick up, but you will have to wait a while to find out what they are.  In the meantime why don't you pop over to the brand new vosene website HERE  take a look at all the new products now available, you might just be surprised how far Vosene have come and while you are there take part in the Fab family competition  HERE   Its an amazing opportunity to win a family holiday worth upto £10,000.   The competition is open from April to October with a new chance each month to enter based on family values of Sharing, Belonging,Time Together, Traditions, Fun and Trust.

You might also like to know that Vosene are in partnership with the wonderful NSPCC Charity who were also at the event on the day.  I personally couldn't think of a better charity to support.



We had a wonderful time with Vosene, thank you all so much for the opportunity and a really big special thankyou to possibly the nicest PR person EVER who came to our rescue at the hotel and later on Sunday !

Wearing a particularly fetching pair of glasses -  HOLLY


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I've changed my plans for the Easter holidays.

When No1 son was 18 months old I became a single mum (through choice).  I needed to earn a living but  my mother lived in Cheshire and my son's biological father & his parents were refusing to help us in any way, shape or form.  I was desperate, a friend of mine at the time said she was sure her parents would be happy to help me out with some childcare.  I had met her parents they were the kind of people that you instantly take to.  They had a warm, loving family home always filled with family, friends and grandchildren. Nothing was too much trouble, food was always on offer and they welcomed us into their fold as if we were family. 

Nanna Jill and Uncle John as they became known looked after Jacob for me two days a week for a year, they refused payment of any kind, but I found ways (giving them M & S vouchers etc). When Jacob was 2.5 he moved onto kindergarten and a new chapter of our life began. 

Over the years we haven't seen Nanna Jill & Uncle John as much as we should have considering how generous they had been to us.  We saw them from time to time and around town.  They had terrible tragedy in their life when two of their grandchildren died (one as a toddler and one as a teenager ) but they were always positive about life whenever I saw them.  A few weeks ago John died after a short battle with cancer.  I was told by a friend of the family and asked if I wanted to go to his funeral.  I felt I couldn't go, that somehow it was a bit like being an ambulance chaser as I hadn't kept in touch with them as I should have.  I felt, I feel, guilt that I wasn't the friend I should have been to them considering how kind they were to me when I most needed help.  What would I say.  I realise now it was my feelings I was concerned about.  I should have gone to the funeral to pay my respects to a kind, generous and funny man.   Yesterday I saw Nanna Jill in the park.  As she walked towards me it dawned on me who she was, almost changed beyond recognition.  She grabbed me in a big hug and we talked for a long, long time about John, how she felt, what had happened, so many words.  Her parting words to me " tell each other every day how much you love them".

I was also with another very special lady at the weekend who has recently lost her mother and is grieving terribly, because we were involved in a busy event and had our children, there never seemed the right moment to talk to her about her mum and I was scared that if I picked the wrong moment to mention mum she might be upset.  I should have gone ahead anyway. 

I come from a really small family I have been blessed to get this far in my life without loosing a close member of my immediate family.  I can't imagine the pain it causes.  So instead of putting the twins in club next week during the school holidays I have changed my plans.  We are going to Cheshire to visit Grandma.

I have this sign in my home, I try to live by it every day.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Cinema Paradiso

We watch a LOT of films in our house.  It is one of the few "pastimes" I can still share with all the members of my family together or as individuals.  When I was asked if I would like to review Cinema Paradiso free DVD Rental  for three months I was only to happy to give it ago.



 


I would not usually go for this type of service, receiving DVD's in the post and then having to go to the effort of posting them back, always seemed like a chore, preferring to select a film from the payview channels on my tv instead, but this can get very expensive and we have to limit ourselves.  I have to say this is a much cheaper option (obviously free during the trial) at only £8.16  per month for four rentals when the trial ends.

The website is clear, well set out and really easy to navigate, you can select by language (subtitled in an endless list of languages), hot lists, top 100, collections, award winners, or film explorer.

Under film explorer you can select by new, all, coming soon or in cinemas.

There are over 20 categories of Genre, including : children & family, classic, Indian cinema, adult it goes on and on. Something to suit everybody.

To start receiving discs, I had to create a list of films we wanted to watch. When you find a particular title either by searching through the catalogue or choosing from the collections, click the 'Add' button to add title to your list. You can add unlimited number of disc to your rental list.  Then on a regular bases top up your list with new titles to ensure you are sent your priority titles on time. I recommend keeping your list updated with about 25 titles to make sure you get the best possible allocation.

Once you receive your membership confirmation email, you then are sent your first disc or discs in the post.  They arrived in flimsy white paper envelopes, I was amazed by this .  You open down the perforated section and the disc was inside a plastic cover.  Both films worked perfectly well, I suppose I expected them not to after the trauma of the royal mail !  The envelope is a clever little design, its reversible with a return address on the inside cover so after you watch the film, you just pop it back in the envelope, remove the self seal strip, stick it down and FREEPOST it back.  Now as I go to the post office nearly every day, its proved no hassle at all to return the discs.  Even if you don't it would be really easy to just plop in a postbox on the morning school run or on your way to work.

You can keep the discs as long as you like, there are no late fees YIPEEE! Being a busy working mum and family this is where I was always falling foul of video clubs. 

Once Cinema Paradiso receive your disc back they then send you another selection from your list.  Ours usually arrive the next or second day after we post back!  Really quick, efficient, no hassle service.

I would highly recommend you take a look, only one little downside I would mention is the choice needs to be bigger, but I can appreciate this will probably improve as the service grows.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Do we expect too much ?

This weekend we were really lucky to be guests of Vosene at London zoo (post to follow).  We had a wonderful time on Saturday and were even given overnight accomodation in a Marriot Hotel enabling us the opprtunity to take the boys to see some of the sights of London and visit the Natural History Museum on Sunday, a wonderful Mother's Day treat for me.

 As we live on a very limited budget, we didn't have much money for extras etc, but we made some cut backs in the months before the planned trip so that we would have some extra cash for food and travel around London etc.  We had a wonderful time travelling on the underground, the twins had a ride on their first double decker bus, we saw lots of London's top landmarks and finished our trip at the Natural History Museum.  I can remember visiting the museum over 35 years ago on a school trip and the wonder of the size and majesty of the place.  The twins too were blown away by it, although it has updated considerably since my last visit!  Sadly, by about 1.30pm they had had enough, My husband and I were hoping we could pop into the V & A next door, but the twins were just too tired.  Milo had been up in the night at the hotel crying and complaining of stomach pains, he was hot and over tired from all the excitement so we decided perhaps it was best if we headed home.

I checked our return tickets to discover that we did not have open returns but were booked on the 7pm train from Paddington to Exeter ! I accept all responsibility for this, I am sure that its is the train time that I requested from the PR company.  On previous occasions We have caught earlier trains than those stipulated on the ticket and the guards have never had a problem.  We arrived at Paddington and boarded a 2.pm fast train to Exeter.  Milo was crying and very hot, all of us were very tired.  We settled into unreserved seats and then the voice of the guard came over the speaker advising that if you were travelling with tickets for a later train you must disembark!  I began to panic, visions of being manhandled off the train by burly policemen at Reading, like you hear on the news.  So I went in search of the guard, explained that we had tickets for a later train but that we were really tired, had a poorly son and just wanted to get home could we please stay on the train! NO! she barked back, your tickets are for 7pm you must wait for that train.  I pleaded, NO ! You must get off, I have 6 yr old twins, its such a long time to wait, we will stand up in the corridor if you let us stay on.  NO! get off now, the train is about to leave or you risk being forceably removed from the train!  The guards name was KAREN ! I told her, her name was the only thing she had in common with me and ran off down the platform to get my family off the train. 



Left standing on the platform with one hysterical twin, one weeping twin and one embarrassed teenager.  I was furious!  Where did my honesty get me.  Off to the ticket office to see the ticket office supervisor, we were met with the same reply.  You can pay £100 and we can let you on the next train.  I don't have £100 I replied, well you will have to wait!

We tried two more times to get on the next two trains and were met with the same answer, one guard even admitted it was at his discretion whether he let us on the train and overlooked the time on the ticket, but still they would not let us on. 

The wonderful PR lady Holly from Vosene had seen my tweets and called me offering for the company to pay the money so that we could catch an earlier train, back to the ticket office I went and told them the story. NO! can't take a payment over the telephone !

By this time I was so exhausted with trying, I gave in.  We had 3 hours left to wait until our train at 7pm.  Holly called me again and offered to send pizza to the station ! Two wonderful London based twitter people offered to come down to the station to keep us company or for us to pop to their homes for an hour or so, How fab was that !  I have spent my life trying to be the best and kindest person I can be, I teach my children the same values, what examples of kindness they witnessed yesterday!  Some of the very best in human nature and some of the very worst!

My question though is, did I have a right to expect to get a train 5 hours earlier than I was booked on ?  even though there was space ?   Technically First Great Western, the train company wasn't doing anything wrong by insisting I stick to the train I was booked on.  Do we expect too much in these days of the ME! ME! ME! Society ?

One last thing, when we finally boarded our train at 7pm (which was a slow one to Exeter and was over an hour longer journey).  Our tickets were not checked at all by a guard and there were people sitting in every seat, most of them had not reserved their seats and they just got up and moved when the rightful owners came onto the train!

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